Although we were serving time for the crimes we were convicted of, there were times when if you messed up you were punished again.
If you screwed with other inmates, there would be a great chance of retaliation. Not always right away, but things didn’t just go away. Or, there were some that didn’t make it out alive for what seemed like no reason. Sometimes the punishment didn’t fit the crime.
Even though I had to continue working in the dining facility, things were getting better. My position changed to beverage man. This was the easiest job available. Basically, I was in charge of making sure that everything worked properly and that nothing ever ran out. The milk dispenser had to be filled with two big bags of white milk, and one bag of chocolate. The soda machine would sometimes run out of the flavored syrup and so I had to monitor and quickly replace them as needed. The coffee machine was huge and I had to brew it first thing in the morning when I got there in order for it to be ready for breakfast. There was plenty of time to brew coffee before lunch and dinner, however the morning brew was crucial.
The most important thing I had to do in this position was to make the coffee. If that wasn’t done right, there could be serious problems. If it wasn’t ready, then hundreds of very irritated inmates would want to have a few choice words with the beverage man. Caffeine addicts in withdrawal could be disastrous, and would certainly lead to incidents throughout the day. On one of my first attempts, I hadn’t put enough grounds in the filter and so the coffee was not going to be strong enough. There was a glass tube that showed the coffee level so I would know when it was getting low. It was because of this indicator that I knew that something was wrong. When I stopped by to check the progress, I noticed that the liquid looked more like watery tea than the dark brown it normally was. Not having much time before the mess hall opened, I drained the light brown water, refilled the metal filter with the right amount of coffee and started it over. It was about half full when the doors opened up. Luckily the first cups brewed are always the strongest and so everything turned out okay. Crisis averted, but man was I sweating.
On March 7, 1991, we got stuck in the mess hall for hours. Our shift was up but there was a problem with the headcount. Someone was missing from the DB. The procedure was to do the count a couple times to make sure the missing person wasn’t just an oversight. It wasn’t. Inmate Donald Goff who was serving a fifty year sentence for the death of his infant son had escaped. He climbed into a laundry cart and it was wheeled into a truck that drove between Fort Leavenworth and Fort Riley regularly. On the trip, Goff changed into a uniform from the laundry cart. When the back of the truck was opened and no one was looking, he walked out of the truck and right off the post.
From what I understand, one of the guys that I worked with in the mess hall had been recently released and moved to the Fort Riley area where he was originally from. The former inmate met up with Goff, gave him some regular clothes and helped him get on his way. It took hours before they could verify that he was actually gone. We could not leave the mess hall until the all clear was given. It made for a long night. Eventually they released us and I left the Castle to go back to B-6. It took about three days for Federal law enforcement to find and capture him. He had been staying in a Salvation Army men’s shelter. I remember seeing him being escorted through the courtyard in shackles as he was taken to solitary confinement. Once again, until the crime had been paid for, we could not run away from our punishment. Goff tried to gain his own freedom and for a blink in time he got away. However, a long stint in the hole and another court-martial adding more time to his sentence made the price to pay even higher than when he started out.
One of the guys that I worked with in the mess hall had a real knack of annoying everyone. Inmate Steeple always seemed to say or do things to get under everyone’s skin. He was very opinionated and sometimes he would play practical jokes on other inmates. It was hard enough to get along with this guy in the mess hall but he made some serious enemies in 4 Wing. I know this because he had an “accident”. Steeple was taking the subscription cards from various magazines and filling out the information so that they would go to other inmates using the “bill me later” option.
Someone found out that he was the culprit. A few of the inmates took the crutches that Steeple was using for a back injury from weight lifting, and used them to give him a severe beating. After that, they pushed him down a flight of stairs. He was taken to the hospital in a coma. Although, it’s possible that he recovered, I never saw him again. Sometimes it was easy to forget that I was surrounded by some very dangerous people, and then I would get a reminder. What Steeple was doing was minor, but the price he paid seems a bit steep. Something needed to be done about it but this was a pretty high big punishment for the “crime”.
One fateful afternoon, an inmate who had just recently arrived to the DB, collapsed on the recreation field. It took quite a while to get an ambulance cleared to come onto the rec field. It was too late, because he was already dead. There was a lot of discussion about whether the level of security was the reason for his death. Inmates were angry because they felt like the guards didn’t do enough to save him and that they didn’t feel safe. After the autopsy results came back, we heard that there was really nothing anyone could have done. The deceased inmate had an enlarged heart and died instantly. It really sucked that he died in prison, because he died before his crime was paid for.
It makes me think about how we all feel like we will live forever and that when making decisions like eternal security, we think that we have all the time in the world. Many others will do the same spiritually. We all start out in the bondage of sin, the effects of which result in not only a miserable life but an eternity separated from God. If only we would accept the free pardon from the one who paid our sin debt and took our punishment for us.